It's here. It's the day after Christmas, and that wave of relief that always comes for me the-day-after-Christmas has washed over me and taken with it the heaviness of the season of high expectations.
I have always known that I have difficulty at Christmas time, but this was the first year I chose to examine it. I asked a few of my very emotionally-healthy friends for advice, and from them came gifts of such understanding and wisdom, that I want to share.
From Chantal I learned that Christmas is so romanticized. There are so many ideals that are put in front of us about how Christmas should be. I would never expect myself to look like a photoshopped model in a magazine, with duct-tape holding up her boobs and 5 people doing hair and make-up, but I have every magazine and blog telling me that it is my responsibility to make Christmas a magical time for my children and loved ones. Every friend should have a handmade something from me to show them that I love them, every card I send should have a special note, every dessert I make should be amazing and every bow I tie should have perfect loops. It is an impossible measuring stick.
From Ellen, my heart was given permission not to figure it all out. She said it was enough this year to just acknowledge that there is something amiss in my feelings, and that I should look at that heavy feeling as though it were a child demanding my attention. Instead of saying "Not right now, I don't have time to deal with you. Sad feelings don't fit in with Christmas ideals, so I am going to ignore you", I can simply say, "I see you. I know you are there," and then just go on. I don't have to ask the feeling why its here, what it wants from me, or what I should do to change it. I simply see it. Maybe just seeing that demanding child will validate it a little, and make it fuss at me less. It certainly has seemed to help. As my children opened their presents yesterday, and overwhelming feelings of guilt engulfed me, instead of ignoring feelings that are not "supposed" to be in ones' heart at Christmas, I said to them, "Yes, I see you there". Maybe for the next 11 months I can work on figuring out why they come to haunt me each Christmas, but I don't have to figure it all out this year.
From Steph, I was gently guided through my sea of inadequacy. A wave from that sea rose up unexpectedly and wiped me out a few days before Christmas. At church we always put together Christmas boxes full of dinner fixings and other items that would be much appreciated by a family having a tight season. When, out of the blue, two ladies from church arrived with a box for us, I began to protest, trying to reassure them that we needed nothing this year. They sweetly expressed love and gratitude for what they claimed was "all our family does" for others, and left us with the box. I cried. I felt indebted to those who sacrificed to put the boxes together, and somehow ashamed that I was on this end of the giving. Later, Steph came and, like a fisherwoman pulling her net into her boat, she pulled all of my worries out of me and talked me through them. Though I hadn't been aware of it, I worried that those I love will not know it if my gifts do not somehow show it. It makes no sense that a box of food brought out those feelings, but that's ok. There they are. I see them.
I received other gifts this year as well. My sweetheart tried very hard this year to create an understanding of the meaning of this Christmas season for our children. I am so blessed to have a husband that gives lasting gifts of his integrity, fidelity and true devotion.
Ruth has given me so many gifts. As I share her journey saying goodbye to her Little Rhys, I have been so honored to witness her grace and faith as she weathers this storm. I have also been handed the opportunity to examine my actions and thoughts every day as I interact with Jonah, remembering always to be grateful for his life, and not taking a minute for granted.
Then there is the sweet gift of Jonah. Though I find it hard to write of my tender feelings for him here without worrying that it will cause Ruth pain, my heart is filled to overflowing for the gift of this little boy. His spirit is immense, his acceptance of my meek efforts, so rewarding. I am grateful every day that in all my weakness I have been given the opportunity to be his mother. And he, above all other wisdom that I have been given these past few days, has healed and humbled me more than anything else.
It is, after all, the birth of a babe that we celebrate at Christmas. A babe who brought us a gift. And in writing those words it occurs to me; maybe my heart hurts at Christmas when I get too far away from that truth.